Freedom Friday: Go and Take Hold

Has anyone ever given you a gift that you refused to open?

Maybe it was in a box with entirely too much tape on it (can you tell we’re in the process of moving – again?). Full of anticipation, you began the process of tearing the tape off piece by piece, trying to figure out which piece was on top and which one to remove first. The excitement wore off when you realized the work ahead of you, and you put it aside for another day.

Perhaps you had an idea of what was in the box, a glimpse of the gift you would receive. While the idea of the gift was enticing, you weren’t sure it was any better than what you already had. And you could see the obstacles that stood in the way of what you were given. They seemed insurmountable.

I’ve been reading through the story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Having finished up about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, I’ve reached the point of the story where Moses shares his final admonishments for the people he has been leading for 40 years.

In my reading this morning, I came upon this gem:

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 1:21a).

Isn’t this just so like God? Later in the story, when Joshua is staring at the walled city of Jericho, it was so closed up that no one was even coming or going. And yet, what was God’s perspective? God basically tells them,“See I have delivered Jericho into your hands – now go and take it” (a summary of Joshua 6:2-5).

How did God direct the Israelites to enter the Promised Land? How does God ask the same of us?

First, God asks us to see. Not with our own limited perspective, but with His. If He has said He will do it, then He will do it.

During the time referred to in Moses’ recounting, the Israelites sent spies in to scout out the land. All the spies reported that the land God would give them was indeed good land, even bringing back some fruit. They also reported that the people were stronger and taller than them, and the cities large and walled. Rather than focus on what God asked them to see, they fixated on what they saw with their eyes. God wanted the Israelites to first see with His perspective.

Second, God asks us to trust. God had promised a land flowing with milk and honey to the Israelites, a land He promised that He would bring them into. The Israelites simply needed to take God at His Word. God was in essence saying, “I said I would do this. Remember how I drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea? Remember how I provided food and water for you throughout your journey? Remember how I traveled with you by fire and cloud? I am with you, and I will continue to be with you as you choose to trust in me.” When what they saw didn’t make sense, God asked them to fix their sight on His promises and not the fear in their hearts.

Third, God asks us to go and take hold. After deciding to see things through God’s eyes, after choosing to trust in God, God then asks us to take a step of faith, go, and take hold of all that He has for us. The Israelites chose not to do this with disastrous consequences. Only Caleb and Joshua got to walk in the fullness of God’s promises.

As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, God has given us so much. In fact, He “has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Peter goes on to talk about God’s “very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”

In typical God fashion, though, this too is something we need to go and take hold of. “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

Paul knew this intimately when he wrote the following to the church in Philippi: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already ready been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Is there a promise from God that you have not yet received? First, see with His eyes. Second, trust in His promises. Third, go and take hold.

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 1:21

Freedom Friday: A Lesson in Priorities

I’ve been re-reading Joshua for my next book project (details later!). Reading at least a chapter a day of Scripture really has helped me keep the events in perspective as they relate to one another.

Chapters 7-8 is a slightly painful section of Joshua. After several stories of victory and radical obedience on the way to the Promised Land, Israel loses its battle with Ai. You can read the story here.

Here are some lessons we can gather from the story.

Ask God, Why?
Joshua immediately goes before the Lord. He tears his clothes, falls facedown, and begs God to answer his cries and pardon him.

Often times, we are told that good Christians don’t question God. Just accept His sovereignty and whatever He sends your way. While that can be very good advice at times, there is also wisdom in reminding God of His promises (I’ve blogged about this in one of my most popular posts) and finding out where you might have gone wrong.

James wrote, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (1:5, NLT).” If you need understanding about a situation in your life, ask for it. If God doesn’t give you insight, then trust Him to guide you through.

Don’t settle.
Joshua does go immediately before the Lord, but his prayer is eye-opening. Rather than simply asking God, What happened? he says, in essence, Why did we ever cross the Jordan? This whole “getting into the Promised Land” is too hard! Why didn’t we just accept “good enough”?

Joshua, a man of great faith, was settling. He was falling into “wilderness mentality.”

Joshua likely spent decades in the wilderness. His traveling companions weren’t exactly pillars of confidence. If only we never left Egypt! they cried. Egypt was good enough!

Joshua was so happy to be out of slavery and out of the wilderness that he thought maybe the Israelites should have permanently made camp on the other side of the Jordan. It was, after all, “good enough.”

But it wasn’t God’s perfect plan.

So how did God reply to Joshua in this situation? Verse 10 records, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”

This isn’t what I have for you, Joshua. Get up, and I’ll show you my best.

We must choose not to settle for what appears to be good. As a pastor of mine says, “The good is often the enemy of God’s best.”

Give God your best first.
In chapter 6, Joshua is clear in his directions to the Israelites as they prepare to circle Jericho: “Don’t keep any of the devoted things.” Achan disobeys and hides some things under his tent.

What made this account extra sad in my recent reading is that in the following chapter, when Israelites attack Ai again, God allows the Israelites to “carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves.”

Why would God do this? Why couldn’t they just take plunder from Jericho? Was it just an arbitrary lesson in obedience?

As I shared in this post, one of God’s main directives to the Israelites as they prepared to leave the wilderness behind was that they continue to walk in obedience to His commandments. They would not be successful in the Promised Land if they did not choose to obey whatever God required of them.

That said, I heard someone say recently that this is an example of the firstfruits principles. God wants our best first. He wants our offering (tithe) first. It can’t be an afterthought to be a worthy offering. Thus, God wanted the plunder from Jericho to first be an offering to Him. He was asking the Israelites to trust that they would receive their own blessings in due time.

God wants our best, and He wants to give us His best. He wants us to align our priorities with His priorities. We need to ask, we can’t settle, and we must give God our best.

Pregnant with a Dream

A year ago yesterday, we started our lives in northern VA.

3 weeks later, my father passed away, and 2 weeks after that, we moved into a rented townhouse.

We still don’t have complete clarity as to why God brought us here, nor do we have steady employment. Despite that, I am still 100% convinced God is up to something amazing.

Sunset behind our home 2 days ago

How can I be so convinced?

Because I am pregnant. Not in the typical sense, though.

I am pregnant with a dream.

God has stirred something up in me, and I’m even more excited to see what our 2nd year here holds.

Above all else, I deeply trust Him.

I asked my 6 year-old son what he learned about in church today. He learned about the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the Promise Land. I asked him if they talked about the Jordan River being at flood stage, and what that meant for the Israelites – how scary that would be.

I blogged two and a half years ago about stepping into your Jordan. A year ago, we stepped into ours, trusting that the Promised Land was on the other side. We are still in the throes of labor, the flood stage, birthing this dream God has given us.

We are still waiting, still trusting. It’s been quite painful at times, but full of anticipation.

Thank You, Lord, for this adventure that is life with You!

What Jordan do you need to step into today? What frightening step do you need to take?

Monday Morning Meditation: Remind Him of His Promises


I’m not up for writing a new Monday Morning Meditation, so I’m going to direct you to the most popular Monday Morning Meditation, and my 2nd most popular post of all time:

Remind Him of His Promises

How often do we go timidly before God, as if we somehow   have to beg Him to keep His Word?

Psalm 138:2 says:

I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.

Praying for you all!

Help Me Be New

God is doing a work in me
He’s walking through my rooms and halls
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light

I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
To not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

It seems easier
Living out my life in Christ
For those who do not know me
To hide the thorns stuck in my side
And all my secret faults

But you know me well
And it’s you I want the most to see
And recognize the changes
A word from you empowers me
To press on for my goal

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

When I feel condemned to live my old life
Remind me I’ve been given a new life in Christ

“Help Me Be New” by Sara Groves

Freedom Friday: Selling My Birthright

Driving to church on Sunday, I heard part of this sermon (Aug. 5th, 2012) based on these verses from Genesis 25:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. ”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

red lentils

This dramatic and fairly well-known story describes the dynamics between twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It was a volitile situation even from the womb, the Bible describing how the babies “jostled each other” within Rebekah. Esau was born first, but, not to be outdone, Jacob came out grasping Esau’s heel.

Yet Esau was still the first born.

We don’t have that many parallels today in Western culture as it pertains to birthrights. In Jewish culture, the firstborn child was given certain rights, privileges and inheritance simply based on the fact that he was born first. It is in Genesis and the story of Jacob & Esau where the rights of the firstborn are first talked about.

As believers, we have all been adopted into God’s family, and we are all His favorites. As His children, there are certains rights and privileges that God has given to us, promises He says will be fulfilled if we follow and trust in Him, surrendering our entire lives over to His lordship.

As I listened to the sermon, I couldn’t help but think of my struggle with overeating.

Am I selling my birthright for a plate of food? I wrote a poem that was posted 2 days ago if you missed it.

Alicia Britt Chole dissects the temptation of Jesus in her book, anonymous. You can read a Biblical account here.

Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and was genuinely hungry. Satan tells Him to turn stones into bread.

What would be wrong with that? Eating is not a sin, after all. What would be the harm in having a bite of bread?

From anonymous, pg. 65:

I find it noteworthy that Satan did not suggest that Jesus run into town and steal some food – that would have been a blatant violation of God’s commendments. But eating? Food in itself is not sinful. And here is where Satan’s lures can be deceptive. This layer was not about what Jesus would eat as much as it was about when Jesus would eat. Would he obey Father God even when obedience meant delayed satisfaction of legitimate needs?

In the layer of appetite, we witness Satan’s skillful use of a most effective lure: immediate gratification.

Imagine where we’d all be if Jesus sold His birthright for a plate of food.

Your issue may not be with food. It may be with gossip, crass talk, pornography, stealing, or subtle lying. Those could all be considered “false foods.”

What are you selling your birthright for a plate of? What false food do you run to in order to try and satisfy legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?

It is not likely that Esau was literally going to die of hunger, as he dramatically stated. Yet he was genuinely hungry.

Often when I run to the cabinets, I too am genuinely hungry.

But my hunger is not for food.

I desire comfort, escape. I am tired, lonely, bored, in pain, and am looking for a way to forget, to flee those feelings.

My need is legitimate, but it cannot be meet with food. My need is for God, spiritual strength, companionship, laughter, joy, peace and rest.

Think for a minute.

Are we despising our birthright, as Esau did, because we choose to run to false food instead of Him?

Are we missing out on the fulfillment of God’s promises – His presence, His provision, our inheritance as His child – in favor of more immediate gratification?

Is the pay-off, the “reward” really worth it?

Monday Morning Meditation: Search for God’s Strength

“Search for the LORD and for his strength;
and keep on searching.” Psalm 105:4

What does the Bible have to say about God’s strength?

God Himself is our strength (**Scripture references for this section are below). He also arms us with strength, renews our strength and gives us strength. Christ strengthens us to do all things. Our strength comes from God’s grace. He gives us strength to do His work and use our gifts to help others. When we are weak, we can be strong in Him.

“Search for the LORD and for his strength;
and keep on searching.” Psalm 105:4

The passage implies that God’s strength may not always be obvious. It’s something that needs to be looked for and sought after continually. I imagine part of that is because we are broken and imperfect people. In the parable of the sower, Jesus talked about how God’s message can be “crowded out by the worries of this life.” I know I am prone, when I hear an encouraging word from Scripture, to walk away, excited and invigorated about the great God we serve. Then when life bombards me with trials and challenges, I often lose sight of what God has shown me about His character. This is one reason I keep a journal. It serves as a stone of remembrance, a reminder of the things His Word says, and also the words He’s spoken to me directly.

Could you use a dose of God’s strength today? Ask Him for strength. Remind Him of His promises, some of which are listed above. And search. Keep your eyes open to the creative ways He will provide His strength.

** Scripture references for those characteristics of God & strength: Psalm 46:1, Psalm 18:32, 39, Psalm 23:3, Psalm 29:11, Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:13, 1 Peter 4:11, 2 Corinthians 12:10

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. This Bible’s NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at

Monday Morning Meditation: His Promises as Armor & Protection

In the last few weeks, we’ve talked several times about God’s promises, and I thought this verse was a great follow-up.

“He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
Psalm 91:4

When you read these Monday Morning Meditations, I strongly encourage you to go read the whole chapter or portion of scripture that the verse is taken from. Breathe, read and soak it in.

A few weeks ago, we read about how God’s promises are backed by all the honor of His name. Then last week, we talked about God standing before us, as a shield in battle. Now, we read that His promises also serve as our armor and protection.

Stop and think for a minute: what do you wear as armor? Do you self-protect, or allow God to be your refuge and tower of safety? (We will talk more about those questions this week in Freedom Friday.)

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

This is prefaced by the psalmist talking about God covering and sheltering us with His feathers and His wings.

God is giving us a word picture. What I hear God saying is, “I’ve got you covered. My promises have got your back.”

I don’t need to protect myself. God’s faithful promises will take care of that.

The psalm begins:
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High

will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.” verses 1-2

Trust. Safety. Refuge. Resting place.

Whatever challenges you are facing today, remind yourself that God’s got this. He has you covered.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.


Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at

Freedom Friday: You Have Not Because You Ask Not

Have you noticed any patterns in your life lately?

Themes concerning which God is dealing with you?

I’m in the midst of reading 2 Kings in the Bible and starting on the New Testament, beginning with the gospel of Matthew. The topics of prayer and petition has been coming up quite a bit, especially as I read the Sermon on the Mount.

Last night, I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker reminded me of this verse in James 4:2 (KJV):

“You have not because you ask not.”

It brought to mind something that happened recently.

In January, our church sang “Came to my rescue.” How I love that song (I prefer this simple version to the one generally heard). I downloaded it to my phone, as I was about to embark on a road trip.

I passionately sang as I drove down the highway, “I called, You answered, and You came to my rescue…” As I sang, God gently spoke to my heart.

“But you don’t always.”

“Wait, what?” I replied.

“You don’t always.” He gently said.

“What do you mean?” I again replied.

“You don’t call. There are times when I would have rescued you, even recently, when I would have reached out to save you, but you didn’t call.”

That just broke my heart. Especially as a parent.

A year ago, I wrote a post called “Eeyore Complex: Pooping on God’s Plan“. In that post, I wrote the following:

How would I feel if my children went whining around the neighborhood, asking for everyone else to feed them and meet their needs, but they didn’t come to me? What if they only came to me as sort of an afterthought? Like I was their 2nd or 3rd choice?

But in this case, I wasn’t running to everyone else. In this time of silence, I’m more apt to sit around, wallowing in self-pity and hopelessness, than I am to go to God first.

When God brought this to my attention on that road trip, I cried and asked God to forgive me. I repented of my pity party and acknowledged that I desperately need His help and long for Him to be my rescuer.

“You have not because you ask not.”

The Sermon on the Mount teaches us some lessons on prayer.

1. Keep it simple. The number of words or the complexity of language isn’t what convinces God to answer our prayers. Matthew 6 talks about not babbling on like the Pharisees because “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” It gives us an example of how to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Sometimes, I just pray, “God, help” or “Holy Spirit, come.” God knows your heart and your desires. Keep it simple.

2. Be persistent. Keeping our prayers simple does not mean we can only ask once. In fact, Jesus implores us to do the opposite:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” words of Jesus in Mt 7:7-8

I mentioned the persistent widow in this week’s Monday Morning Meditation. I also talked about reminding God of His promises, something I’m seeing a lot of in the Old Testament. We can persistently ask God to do what He has said He will do.

3. Keep it real. We can be honest with God. We can unreservedly share with Him about our fears, our doubts, even our ludicrous dreams. It’s often when I open these things up to God that He reveals to me the why and the how.

God is good. He is also mighty. He is able to handle whatever you need to share with Him.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” words of Jesus in Mt 7:9-11

God really does have a plan for you. You. Good things for you. Ask Him to see it come to fruition in your life. Ask Him for your needs and your desires. And trust Him for the answer, even if it’s no.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV1984)

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. This Bible’s NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at

Monday Morning Meditation: Remind God of His Promises

Good morning, Living Unveiled readers! Welcome to our first full installment of Monday Morning Meditation.

Let’s dive right in.

Psalm 138:2 says:

I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.

His promises are backed by all the honor of His name.

My kids watch TV almost every weekday from 3-4. Since they can’t tell time, they may periodically ask me about the shows, and if we will be home at that time. When they wake from nap, they ask if they woke up in time to watch their shows.

In other words, they have no trouble reminding me about the fact that I said they could watch TV because they naturally take me at my word.

Is that how we treat God’s promises, which this psalm says are backed by all the honor of His name?

Rather, how often do we go timidly before God, as if we somehow have to beg Him to keep His Word? Or we don’t even believe His promises at all, or don’t live in a way that reflects that they are for us, His children?

This is certainly something I’ve struggled with. Reminding God of His promises almost feels presumptuous. First of all, doesn’t He already know them? Second, isn’t it kind of forward and demanding?

I’m reminded of Luke 18 & the example of the persistent widow. Or Matthew 7, where Jesus commands that we “keep on asking.”

As I read through the Old Testament, I cannot help but see the examples of people, including prophets, kings and ordinary folks, who repeatedly reminded God of His Word and what He said He would do.His promises for us include love, acceptance, hope, prosperity, sustenance, security, hope, protection, freedom, abundant life, and did I mention hope? Jeremiah 29 says God’s plans for us with give us a future and a hope.

As you read the Bible this week, notice who God says He is, and what He has said He will do. Ask God to breathe life into His Word, and listen as He makes it come alive in you.
Remind Him of His promises. They are backed by all the honor of His name.

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. This Bible’s NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at